World Cup: Suarez refuses to apologise as Ghana and Uruguay meet again
Suarez deliberately hand-balled to prevent Ghana from scoring a late winner in 2010 (Getty)

Perhaps it was slightly mischievous by the Uruguay national team press officer to put Luis Suarez up for media duties on the eve of the team’s meeting with Ghana. Friday will see the first game between the two nations since that match in 2010.

In the 2010 World Cup quarter final, Suarez controversially denied Ghana a winning goal in the final moments by deliberately hand-balling on the goalline. Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty, Suarez rejoiced on the touchline afterwards having been dismissed, the game ended 1-1 and Uruguay advanced via a penalty shoot-out.

That episode prevented Ghana from becoming the first African nation to reach the semi finals of the World Cup, and the despair is still raw for the Ghanaian population. The country’s president has called for the team to “get revenge” as they line up to face each other 12 years later.

Then at the pre-match press conference, a Ghanaian journalist told Suarez that many people in the country see him as “the devil” and want to “retire” him. In the face of such anguish, Suarez refused to bite and unrepentantly responded: “I don’t apologise about that. The Ghana player missed a penalty, not me. Maybe I could apologise if I made a tackle and injured a player.

Suarez refused to apologise for the incident at the 2010 World Cup (Getty)

“But in this situation I took the red card and the referee gave a penalty. It is not my fault because I didn’t miss the penalty. The player who missed the penalty, he said he would do the same [as I did]. It is not my responsibility to shoot the penalty.”

Uruguay’s No 9 added that “you can’t just keep thinking about the past” and made the point that Giorgio Chiellini, the Italian player he bit at the 2014 World Cup, had shook his hand and moved on from that episode.

I played against Chiellini afterwards,” the 35-year-old said. “I made a mistake with what I did and then we shook hands and played. You can’t just keep thinking about the past and revenge, because it would be counter-productive.

Comments will only add to emotion of pivotal group game

Suarez’s comments are unlikely to dampen the emotion as the two team go head to head for a place in the knockout phase. Uruguay, who have one point from two games, must defeat Ghana if they are to stand any chance of progressing out of Group H. A draw may do Ghana, who currently sit second on three points, but could be impacted by the other game in the group between already-qualified Portugal and South Korea.

Otto Addo, the Ghana head coach, hopes his players will be willing to “sacrifice” themselves for the good of the team and not overly think of the Suarez incident during the game. “It is about perspective,” Addo said. “If the same incident happened the other way round, and Ghana would have proceeded to the semi-finals, everyone would have been ‘OK’. It is normal that a player would do anything he can to help his team to the semi-final.

Addo has called for his players to put it into perspective (Getty)

“For me, it is not a big topic. I wish for every player to do all he can, and sometimes to sacrifice himself with a red card. It was a very sad day for me, but for me it is not a big topic. We are preparing for the match like every other match.”

Uruguay are yet to score at this World Cup, having drawn with South Korea and lost to Portugal. This is despite their impressive collection of forward players, including Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Darwin Nunez. Suarez was substituted after 64 minutes of the goalless draw against South Korea and was then dropped from the starting lineup against Portugal. 

The striker moved from Atletico Madrid to Uruguayan side Nacional earlier this year, and he admitted his game has changed as his career comes to an end. “Obviously as the years go by, I am not getting any younger,” he said. “My pace is not what it used to be. But in any position you have to help out with your skills, intelligence and movement. 

“I can’t just play a long ball and run for 30 metres. Now there are other players who are able to do that. I have to show my team-mates what my skills are at the moment and just try to help out in any way that I can.